Gov. Robert Dunkerson Orr
(1917-2004)

 

Family Links

Spouses/Children:
1. Joanne Wallace

2. Mary Kathryn Davis

Gov. Robert Dunkerson Orr

  • Born: 17 Nov 1917, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw, Michigan, United States 1
  • Marriage (1): Joanne Wallace
  • Marriage (2): Mary Kathryn Davis
  • Died: 10 Mar 2004, Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, United States at age 86 1
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bullet  Noted events in his life were:

His obituary was published in the New York Times on 12 Mar 2004 in New York, New York, New York, United States. 2

Robert D. Orr, 86, Governor Who Revamped Indiana Schools

Robert D. Orr, who championed an educational overhaul as governor of Indiana in the 1980's and later served as an ambassador to Singapore, died here on Wednesday. He was 86.

The apparent cause was heart arrhythmia, said Mark Lubbers, Mr. Orr's former press secretary and longtime aide. Mr. Orr was admitted to the hospital for surgery because of an apparent kidney blockage, but his condition worsened, Mr. Lubbers said. In December, Mr. Orr underwent surgery for prostate and bladder cancer.

Mr. Orr, a Republican, spent 16 years in the state's top two offices, serving two terms as lieutenant governor beginning in 1973 and then as governor from 1981 to 1989. He was barred from a third term.

After leaving office in 1989, he was named ambassador to Singapore.

As governor, Mr. Orr presided over the strengthening of the state's economy after the recession of the early 1980's. He also oversaw the removal of the state license branch system from political control and an aggressive effort to promote the export of Indiana products -- a crusade he maintained long after leaving office.

Mr. Orr's major achievement was passage of a sweeping educational overhaul package in 1987. The ''A-Plus'' package required student achievement exams, a new school accreditation system based on performance and rewards for schools that showed improvement.

He also pushed two major tax increases through the General Assembly, one in 1982 to fix budget problems and one in 1987 to pay for the education program.

Mr. Orr was born on Nov. 17, 1917, in Ann Arbor, Mich. He graduated from Yale in 1940 and attended Harvard Business School before enlisting in the Army in 1942. In World War II, he served in the Pacific Theater and was commissioned a major.

He went to Evansville at the end of the war and entered the family business, the Orr Iron Company. He was Vanderburgh County Republican chairman and was elected to the State Senate in 1968 before being elected lieutenant governor.

Mr. Orr is survived by his wife, the former Mary Kay Davis, whom he married in 2001, and three children from a previous marriage, to Joanne Wallace.

An Article about him was published in The Indianapolis Star in Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, United States. 3

Robert D. Orr (1917-2004)
Indiana's 45th governor

Robert D. Orr was Indiana's governor from 1981 to 1989. He died on March 10, 2004 at the age of 86.

As governor, he persuaded the Legislature to pass his sweeping "A-Plus" education package that extended the school year, required student achievement exams and established a new school accreditation system based on performance with rewards for schools that showed improvement. After leaving office, however, Orr was disappointed to see some components of his education package dismantled.

Although the A-Plus plan was his centerpiece education inititative, some educators point to Orr's role in passage of the PrimeTime program to reduce class sizes in kindergarten through third grade as a more significant and long-lasting achievement in education.

Orr oversaw the creation of a utility consumer counselor to represent ratepayers, the overhaul of Indiana's state-run mental hospitals, the professionalization of the State Board of Accounts, the creation of the Department of Environmental Management and the creation of a state-controlled welfare system.

He signed the state's open records law and led the charge to place the state's motor vehicle license branches, then a patronage system run by the state's political parties, under the control of a bipartisan commission.

Orr also worked hard to lure Japanese and other foreign investment to Indiana. In 1986, he and Lt. Gov. John Mutz landed the $500 million Subaru-Isuzu plant along I-65 near Lafayette. The plant's owners, given an $86 million incentive package, pledged to create 3,200 jobs.

The son of Samuel L. and Louise (Dunkerson) Orr, Robert Dunkerson Orr was born Nov. 17, 1917 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. However, he grew up in Evansville and considered himself a sixth generation Hoosier.

He graduated from Yale University in 1940 and attended Harvard Business School until the United States entered World War II. Enlisting in the Army as a private in 1942, he served in the Pacific theater and rose to the rank of major and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his service.

After the war, he returned to Evansville to enter the family business, Orr Iron Co., while becoming active in Vanderburgh County Republican politics. He was elected to the Indiana Senate in 1968, and then in 1972 he ran for lieutenant governor as the running mate of Otis "Doc" Bowen. The Bowen-Orr ticket won the election and the two were re-elected in 1976.

Gov. Orr made education one of his highest priorities. In this picture, he is being interviewed by first-grader Mindy Wagoner during a 1985 visit to Moorhead Elementary School. Indiananpolis News photo by Joe Young.
In 1980, Orr ran for governor in his own right, defeating Democrat John Hillenbrand II by a record margin of 483,952 to 284,182. In 1982, facing a state deficit of $450 million caused by a recession, Orr called a special session of the Indiana General Assembly and pushed through an increase in the state sales and income taxes to help balance the budget.

He was re-elected in 1984 and made education and economic development the cornerstones of his second term. In 1986, Orr brokered the Subaru-Isuzu deal and the following year the General Assembly passed his education package.

After leaving office in 1989, he was named U.S. ambassador to Singapore. And upon his return to Indiana, he formed a consulting firm, Alliance for Global Commerce, which focused on international trade and export issues.

Orr had three children by his first wife, Joanne "Josie" Wallace, whom he married in 1944. They divorced in 2000, and Orr married Mary K. Davis in January 2001.


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Robert married Joanne Wallace, daughter of Norman Wallace and Marjorie Robbins. (Joanne Wallace was born on 7 Nov 1920 in Springfield, Hampden, Massachusetts, United States 4 5 and died on 10 Oct 2006 in Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, United States 5.)


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Robert next married Mary Kathryn Davis. (Mary Kathryn Davis was born on 17 Dec 1933 6 and died on 17 Nov 2009 in Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, United States 6.)


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Sources


1 U.S. Social Security Death Index (Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2006.),

Name: Robert D. Orr
Last Residence: 46240 Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, United States of America
Born: 17 Nov 1917
Died: 10 Mar 2004
State (Year) SSN issued: Indiana (Before 1951).

2 The New York TImes, New York, New York (http://www.nytimes.com), 12 Mar 2004.

3 The Indianapolis Star, online archives (http://www2.indystar.com/library/factfiles/people/o/orr_robert/orr.html).

4 1930 United States Federal Census (Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2002. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Fifteenth Census of the United States, 1930. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1930.T626, 2,667 rolls.).

5 U.S. Social Security Death Index (Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2006.),

Name: Joanne W. Orr
Last Residence: 46260 Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana
Born: 7 Nov 1920
Died: 10 Oct 2006
State (Year) SSN issued: Massachusetts (Before 1951).

6 U.S. Social Security Death Index (Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2006.),

Name: Mary Kathryn Orr
Last Residence: 46240 Indianapolis, Marion, Indiana, United States of America
Born: 17 Dec 1933
Died: 17 Nov 2009
State (Year) SSN issued: Indiana (Before 1951).


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